Binational Lesbian Couple in New Mexico Fight for the Right to be Together
I found an international lesbian dating site called the “Pink Sofa” and joined up. The second day I was on it I saw Deborah’s picture. “Yipes!” I said to myself. Then I read her bio. Then I said to myself “this woman is the woman for me!”
I messaged her saying: “All the interesting women are in Australia.” She replied: “No, they aren’t. Otherwise I wouldn’t be single, would I?”
Thus began our conversations. First by e-mail, then by the more immediate instant messaging, and finally, by means of a terrific innovation: video conferencing. We bridged a nearly 10,000 mile gap with this technology, and we got along better and better. I invited Deborah to visit me in New Mexico, and I was so excited when she told me that she could make the trip that fall. She arrived at the airport in Albuquerque on Oct. 13, 2007 at 8:30 p.m. (Yes, I remember it, exactly!) and she stayed with me for a month. In many ways, we were peas in a pod. We were both musicians – she in the popular mode, me a classical musician. We had both been educated by the same order of nuns. We were both feminists. And the list went on. At the end of the month, it was clear this was a love match. When she went home to Australia, we were both distraught.
In my naiveté, I thought she could simply come over here and be with me. I had no idea that I could not fill out a form and make that happen. I certainly didn’t know much about our immigration laws, but it never occurred to me that I would be treated any differently than any other American who had fallen in love with someone from another country. You see, I had never felt actual discrimination as a gay person. Sure, I ran into some narrow-minded people from time to time. My attitude was – if you don’t like it – that’s your problem. I had worked in jobs where what you could do was infinitely more important than who you were. As I investigated our options for being together in this country, I came smack up against a bigotry and hatred I had managed to remain ignorant of all my life. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I thought. But there was no kidding around going on here. It was well neigh impossible for us to just “be together” here – in the land of the free.
Deborah had spent her youth writing and playing music. She had not gone to college. A student visa was the only possible visa for her. I asked her if she would want to get a bachelor’s degree. “Why not?” she said.
Our first year together was taken up traveling back and forth to Australia and dealing with being admitted to college here and applying for an F-1 visa. It was very nerve-wracking and very expensive. We should not have needed to do this, of course. I knew it. But all we wanted was to be able to be together. Of course, for many couples in our situation even a student visa would be completely impossible. We stretched every penny to make it work.
She began college in August, 2008. Deborah is a very well, self-educated and traveled woman in her 50s. It has been very challenging for her to be in classes with youngsters. And many of her courses she hates and would never take if it weren’t for the need for this visa. Deborah has basically given up the middle years of her 50′s doing something she would otherwise never do so we can be together. Still, she has been a trooper. She is an A+ student and was awarded the only scholarship given to an international undergraduate at the University of New Mexico.
Having come face to face with the situation of gay people in this country, I applied as soon as I could for a residency visa in Australia. In October of 2011, I was awarded permanent residency in Australia. We knew we were playing for time in this country. If that time runs out, we must move to Australia. If I am forced to leave America, it will be only because of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. I am not going down without a fight. This is, after all, my country, too.
So, what has this been like? Coming face to face with hatred and bigotry and living with the effects of this anti-gay law every day? Living a life you would not otherwise choose? It has been an emotional and financial disaster. Financially, this situation uses up all “discretionary” funds that I earn. I am glad to be able to pay for it, but it means less money for our future. Emotionally? Just imagine what it is like to live every day in a situation you would never choose wondering if and when it might end and how it will end. Imagine giving up years in your 50s to jump through hoops put in front of you by ignorant, hateful, bigots who passed a law claiming to defend “marriage” while denying us the ability to be secure as as couple. Imagine, pushing 70 years old, as I am, and looking at having to make a new life in another country. This is not just cruel. It is an outrage. Every day that DOMA is allowed to deplete my savings and steal years from me that I will never get back, I am angry. Every day that the President affirms his support for my equality, but does nothing to help us avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars and trapping Deborah in school, I am angry. I know there is a lot I can do to change this situation and I am starting by sharing my story here. I want to be able to sponsor the love of my life for a green card.
With everything against us, we just become more obdurate. We will not be separated. We plan to go to New York – my home town – at Christmas time and get married. We will then file a green card petition and fight DOMA. We are going to dig in our heels and fight for what is right. We know we have the power to make change happen.